Thursday, December 31, 2009

ABBA Rules

Y'all can hate if you want, but this song reminds me of New Year's Eves in Scotland, and consequently all my New Year's Eves with my Dad, and it makes me happy. Besides, who can resist a reminder of ill-fitting suits from the '70s? You know you love it.

Picturing the Decade

Xinnian Kuaile!*

Tonight's the night. Another New Year's Eve. Another year on it's way out. Another opportunity to envision the day my grandkids will perhaps be wondering why they keep trotting out the very advanced-in-age Ryan Seacrest on New Year's Eve. But I say God Bless to Ryan, because as I've said before, hosting looks like the easiest job in the world but it ain't. He and Dick Clark have the skills to jump from Taylor Swift to the Foo Fighters to the cast of Two and a Half Men, and make it all seem cohesive. So no dissing the Seacrest for me.

Unlike other years I am not necessarily leaping for joy that the current year is over. 2006? Good riddance. 2007? A good ending from a bad beginning. 2009? A mixed bag.

Yesterday as we drove to Target so Bambina could spend her gift card money, she was saying how if felt good but bad to not be at the store yet, that she just couldn't wait and the waiting was making her body feel funny. I said, "That is called 'anticipation.' It's the excited, restless feeling you get when you really, really want something and are super close to getting it, but you're not yet close enough." This, I think, sums up what we are all feeling individually and as a family about 2009. So much anticipation, not enough fruition.

Baby Sister. She's ours but she's not with us. Every day I wake up and think, "My child is in an orphanage for another day without me." Then I make myself feel better by saying that I have the rest of her life with her, so not to get too wiggy about a few months apart when she's a baby. And then I think, "That's bullshit and you know it, but there's nothing you can do about it, so move on."
Hope for 2010: My baby girl. Home with me. ASAP.

My health. It's fabulous except when it's not. Chronic GVH effing sucks. I hope that I'll one day be off prednisone and my immunosuppressive cocktail, and I won't be 20 pounds heavier than usual, but who knows? Maybe I won't. I hope that the drugs will do what they did for my acute GVH, which is eradicate it. The challenge is that Chronic is a different animal than Acute. Chronic wants to hang around, and it wants to attack weird things like connective tissue rather than, say, your average colon. My skin looks weird now on my back; if I move it looks like cellulite all over because the fibrous tissue under my skin is being shortened by the GVH. So there goes my 2010 bikini modeling contract, folks.
Hope for 2010: A respite from the GVH and from the drugs. Even a little one. Even enough that I get to look in the mirror and semi-recognize my own face.

Our house. 2009 was going to be the year we fixed our deck and our chimney, so we'd be able to have friends over and enjoy our home in summer. It would be cucumber sandwiches and mint juleps and children at play! Only, the first contractor who did the job did it wrong, took our money, has an expired license, and worked without a permit, unbeknownst to us. So we fired him and had to hire a new guy to come and take down everything he did and essentially start over. As we figure out how to hopefully get some restitution, we are now digging ourselves out of the financial hole of having had to pay for two major jobs twice. So, we're psyched we have the deck--just in time for winter!?--but let's just say we're happy Bambina hasn't been accepted to college this year, or sweet thang would be out of luck.
Hope for 2010: No more house projects that hemorrhage money. Being content with our little loveshack just the way it is.

Writing. You'll recall I took the writing class in 2009 that inspired me to write more. Then life got in the way and all my big plans got shelved. This is as it should be, on the one hand, because when your kid needs you you drop everything. On the other hand, if I'm honest, I spent a good deal of 2009 making sure everyone else was good to the detriment of my own goals. This is, of course, nobody's fault but my own, especially since I'm married to perhaps the coolest and most solicitous guy on the planet who routinely tells me to get out of the house, ignore the messy kitchen and go write something. But then my Unemployed White Female alterego kicks in and I feel like if I am not working and contributing financially to the house, I have no business sitting in a coffee shop writing. Like, how is that okay? How is that a good use of time when other people are WORKING at REAL jobs?? And so I go paint a room or mop the floors instead.
Hope for 2010: That I finally get in agreement with myself that stuff I do matters even if it doesn't earn me any money. That perhaps writing is a valid use of my time, as valid as someone else's workout or coffee break or job, even. That I'm entitled to a couple of hours a day not spent in service to another human. We'll see how that goes: “For last year's words belong to last year's language and next year's words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.”

You. This one's unqualified: Thanks for reading, thanks for commenting, thanks for keeping this fun. As the Scottish new year song "A Guid New Year to Ane an' A" says:

A guid new year to ane an' a'
An' mony may ye see,
An' during a' the years to come,
O happy may ye be.
An' may ye ne'er hae cause to mourn,
To sigh or shed a tear;
To ane an'a baith great an' sma'
A hearty guid New year.

*Happy New Year in Mandarin

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


It sounds like a porno, but sadly it ain't.

It's National Blog Posting Month. Which, actually, was November. But it was such a success they've decided to roll it out all year round. January's theme is BEST. A whole month of posts--at least one a day--on "BEST." Which might also include "worst" and "fair to middlin'" and other variants on the theme.

I'm going to do my best (har!) to post every single day. After all, who wants to be the only blogger NaBloPo'ing Less?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Whole Lotta FAIL

Oh where to start?!

The Christmas Day airline almost-bombing. TSA: FAIL. And now, it turns out: CIA: FAIL. Why don't we just skip the intellectual fiction that any of the TSA's nonsense "screening" keeps even one malefactor off an airplane and just accept that if we don't kill them where they live they will fly on our planes and kill us. Or, to be less Republican about it, let us accept that if we don't keep them off our airplanes they will fly on our planes and kill us. Let us all also accept that daily, run-of-the-mill dick-swinging between and amongst agencies over turf and credit and information possession bear no small amount of the blame for this latest FUBAR event. It is a disgrace. And Obama needs to be on notice: Dude, you CANNOT have a terrorist attack during your first term. Yeah, George Bush had one--a rather large one as I recall--but unlike GWB, you won't survive the fallout. If you have to get all Keifer Sutherland on some asses to make it happen, you must avoid a terrorist attack at all costs. I mean, not that you wouldn't anyway of course. But you get my point: attack = GOP in 2012 = disaster. Bust heads accordingly.

Health Care Reform. The Left: FAIL. Lobbying with right wing nutjobs to defeat the health care bill? Are you effing kidding me? Listen, folks. It may be a pile of shit, but it's a better pile of shit than the one we have now. Think about it. I could charitably call this response letting the perfect get in the way of the good, but it's worse than that. It's stupidity, plain and simple. Working to hand our Democratic president a DEFEAT on one of the key, signature issues from the campaign--because it doesn't comport precisely with all we wanted? That's called politics, kids. It's how, unfortunately--and fortunately--things get done in our democracy. Yes, Joe Lieberman should suck it. But to help kill the bill in response to his crap? Hells, naw.

The Vatican. Papal Security: FAIL. The poor 82 year-old Pope gets knocked down by a deranged woman. The same woman who attempted to do the same thing to him in 2008 before being tackled. Any advance work being done over there--or do known freaks just get to approach the Pope regardless?

Prednisone. My Ass' Suitability for Viewing: FAIL. Friends, prednisone is the work of the devil. Except for that part where it actually helps me live a normal life. That's the work of the seraphim and cherubim of course. But the part that helps me live a normal life--AS A FAT PERSON? Evil through and through. I am now referring to my weight gain as My Prednisone Baby, because it has taken the form of one giant spare tire around my stomach--precisely where I need to button my pants. It is of a different texture than the rest of my well-earned fat. It's harder and less malleable. And it often results in a great deal of tears and tantrums. I keeed! A little.

And finally: My stamina. Ability to stay awake at the moment: FAIL. Hasta manana!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Joyeux Noel

For all my Christian friends and family, a blessed, healthy and happy Christmas. For the less religious and/or equally festive, here comes Santa!

And for my tribe, on this the quietest night of the year:

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

On Today's Episode

On today's episode of Selective Socialism, our guest is GOP Rep. Michelle Bachmann. Rep. Bachmann hates socialism and all its proponents in any form. Except when it comes in the form of government subsidies to her father-in-law's farm, in which she has a financial stake:
I love this! I mean, this is straight-up rank hypocrisy. It's socialism if you get government money for health care. It's just good business if I get it for a farm. As Chris Rock said so famously: "I told you that bitch is crazy!"

Next up, on today's episode of Selective Christianity, GOP Senator Coburn prays that someone "in the majority" will be unable to attend the votes on health care. Nice. So groups of teabaggers and various "Christians" got together to pray that Senator Byrd would die before the vote. Joke's on them since Senator Inhofe (R) was the only one who didn't make it. But really, folks. Christians getting together to pray that someone dies so that a government program might not be passed? Really? Praying for the death of political opponents? How the GOP has ANY credibility left is beyond me.

Now, on this week's episode of "Now That's Messing With My Brain, Yo!" comes an article on how smart plants are, how "alive" plants are, and how totally badass plants are. So, vegans: Why are you eating them? This takes me back to my childhood, when my Dad saw a bumpersticker on a passing car that said, "Meat is Murder" and he yelled out the window, "Hey! What about cruelty to turnips?!" It would appear that JP was once again in the vanguard of ethical thought. :)

In part two of the show, we'll discuss how owning a dog is, environmentally speaking, akin to owning an SUV. With toxic feces and stuff thrown in for fun. I don't really want to incur the ire of doglovers everywhere, so I'll diplomatically say that I've never seen an SUV get excited to see its owner after a long day at work...

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sunday Snippets

Holy crap. Did you see this prayercast against the healthcare bill? Rachel Maddow breaks it down, via Washington Monthly. Honestly, folks. This kind of stuff scares the bejesus (pun intended) out of me. Separation of church and state, anyone?

Next, as we go from the gifty excess of Chanukah to the gifty excess of Christmas, here's an article on the growing role of food stamps in the economy, now that so many middle-income Americans have had to turn to them. Particularly poignant is this anecdote, which gave me a lump in my throat: "Unemployed and on disability benefits, Contraeras, 45, has custody of her grandchildren, ages 2 and 3. She has resorted to circling the first of the month on her calendar so that when her grandchildren are hungry, she can count down the days until they can return to the grocery store. 'I have to make a game out of it for the kids,' she said."

In lighter fare, the top ten movies of the decade, according to metacritic:

And with that, you all enjoy your Sunday. I'm off to survey the "snowpocalypse" (as Oliver Willis calls it). Pics to follow!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Season's Beatings

Good day, darlings. If you're even semi-conscious you are aware that yet another Storm of the Century is pounding the East Coast. DC is of course shut down, although to be fair, 20 inches does get in the way of business. Here in Boston we are awaiting about 12 inches, which is a lot but not truly newsworthy. As Jack Palance once said so beautifully, "I sh*t bigger than that."

On the plus side, Grandma Haggis did manage to get out of DC ahead of the storm and arrive this morning, so Bambina is very happy. On the Scottish side, in my mother's true style, she sat down at my breakfast table and said just sweet as pie, "What possessed you to get such a short haircut?" So delicately put, as always.

Allow me to fill you in on my most recent haircut. The one that prompted my child to say "Mama now has Dada hair!" The one that could not have come at a worse time for me, being that my face alone weighs 14 pounds from prednisone. The one that coincided with me feeling the most acute depression about perhaps never getting off prednisone and being giantly fat and disfigured, not to mention immune-suppressed--for the rest of my natural life. I mean, it was a seriously bad time for me to walk into my usual salon, to my usual person, and say, "give me the usual!" without then actually describing what that meant. 45 minutes later and I'm looking at a buzz cut. At first I thought it had just been styled differently, but when I got home I could no longer avoid the truth: bitch had shaved my head.

So: couldn't have happened at a worse time emotionally and psychologically. But then again, as I selected which hats I would be wearing when in the presence of other humans for the next two months, I wondered if perhaps it hadn't happened at the perfect time after all. Because in all honesty, sometimes we need a little reminder that all the stuff we think is important: our appearance, our hair, our ass size, our face size--really actually truly isn't. I can sit around and cry about my mortifying haircut, or I can say, "Fuck it! It's just hair--and hair grows." I can bemoan my huge ass, or I can--as the beautiful and sweet and darling BBDD advised and insisted--just go buy bigger pants. I can get all worked up about all the stuff that sometimes feels like it matters so much, or I can realize that doing so will only take me away from all the stuff that actually does matter: helping out at my kid's school, seeing my friends, hanging out with family, getting our home ready for Baby Sister. That's the stuff that matters, that's the place my head should be, and it wasn't. So--if it took a bad haircut to strip me of my pretensions and get me back on track--then maybe it wasn't such a bad thing after all.

That said, bitch still shaved my head, and if I ever figure out which car is hers, it's gettin' a keying.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Link a Dink a Doo

This first one is amazing. It's a Family Portrait of all 56 ethnic groups in China. When people think "Chinese" they often have a very specific image in mind of what that looks like. It has bugged me in the past, especially when people have asked about Bambina, "Are you sure she's Chinese?" Um, hello. She was born in China. She's Chinese. Just like you were born in the USA; you're American, right? This album beautifully demonstrates the wonderful diversity of the Chinese people...beyond the stereotypes.

Next, please enjoy Glenn Beck as he defends the Three-Fifths Compromise. You recall the 3/5 Compromise: the one that said Black people were not full humans? Why is this man on TV?

The ten most irritating people of 2009 (Canadian Version).

More to come!


Today began like any other, with Bambina dropping some knowledge on us at the breakfast table. She informed us that her foot (just yesterday released from its cast after a month after an unfortunate fall on the school playground) would be "somewhat weak for 11 or 9 or at the very least 3 days." Cool. Then she proceeded with her "Raise Your Hand If..." game. You're not familiar with the game? Allow me to explain just in case you happen to drop by some day. Bambina yells, "Raise your hand if... [insert situation here, like "your birthday is in May!"]." Those at the table who qualify then raise their hands. It sounds simple, but it's not; because, really, who's to say that I am or am not "a slice of bacon" or "a bagel," born in the month of May, right? It just gets sillier and sillier by the minute, but she loves it and so we comply. Until today, when she said, "Raise your hand if you like to shake your booty!" Our hands went up. Followed immediately by, "Raise your hand if you like to shake your vagina!" BBDD's hand goes down waaaay fast. My hand goes to my face to hide my laughter. After which I wonder aloud whether perhaps we could just include the vagina shaking in with the booty shaking, since it's all kind of nether-regiony after all, isn't it? After a period of review and consideration, Bambina mercifully assented to combining the shakes so that "booty" shaking would now refer to anything in that whole "bummy area" that shakes while you are dancing. Smart girl. Relieved father. Another regular morning in our house.

So then off to acupuncture I went. I have no real knowledge of acupuncture, no real sense of what it is, but my sister does it and has found it to be helpful, and quite frankly y'all, I am as fat and insomniac and ridiculous as I can get with all this prednisone so I'm pretty much ready to try anything. I did it through Dana Farber's Zakim Center just to be safe, in terms of my doctor knowing what I'm up to and seeing practitioners who understand the unique needs of immune-concerned patients. I wish I could say that I experienced profound relaxation and tranquility as a result, but mostly what I experienced was the realization that I am almost genetically unable to sit for 5 minutes and do nothing. I got the needles in various places (none of which hurt at all, I might add), then the doctor left the room for 30 minutes during which I was to relax on the bed while the pan flute music played or whatnot. Can I tell you how hard it was for me to just lie there? The only reason I didn't get up and get my cell phone or laptop was because I would dislodge some of the needles if I moved and then how would I explain that to the doc, right? "Oh, thanks for my wellness acupuncture here to promote healing and relaxation and rest--I just thought I'd pay some bills and download some online grocery coupons while I waited..." That would be embarrassing even for me. So I didn't. I just...laid there. For 30 loooong minutes. Looking at the ceiling. Counting the needles (14). Checking my watch. Checking my watch again. Noting that 3 minutes feels longer than one might think. Wondering if the doctor might come early. Reflecting on how ludicrous and borderline unacceptable it was that I was lying on a bed doing NOTHING at 10 o'clock on a weekday morning when real people were at their jobs doing productive things. People like the doctor. Who might come back early, right? I mean, it's been 18 minutes. I bet he'll come soon. Yeah, he'll be back any minute. Just a few more minutes till I'm done...

All in all, I liked the practitioner, I liked the thought that this might be of some help, and I liked learning more about it; so I made some more appointments. My plan for next time, however? A 30 minute solo game of "Raise Your Hand If...!"

The Sing-Off

Friends, please allow me to introduce you to the Total Effing Scene that is TV's new show: The Sing-Off. If ever there were an indication that there is something on the telly for everyone, this show is it. If you are unaware, the show--hosted by the lamentable former boy-bander Nick Lachey--features---wait for it!--a cappella groups vying to be America's Top A Cappella Group. Because, you know, what this country needs right now is the joy of crowning our Top A Cappella Group to make it morning in America again. Nothing like a cappella music to bring us together as a nation.


What can I say? I missed the boat on a cappella groups. Never got the attraction, never understood the appeal. My college had several a cappella groups and each was more ridiculous than the last. The all- (white) boy one did a version of Seal's "Crazy" that truly truly would have made Mr. Heidi Klum weep with grief at what had been done to his music. But it seemed like I was living in a parallel universe where mediocre soulless music was considered "awesome!" and its purveyors rock stars, perhaps because my college was 98% upper-middle class white kids who wouldn't have recognized soul if it came up to them sporting a soul patch, eating soul food, and looking soulfully like Isaac Hayes impersonating Al Green on a soul high.

And now comes a TV show dedicated to disseminating and, dare I say, legitimizing this god-awful performance "art." To be fair, some of the singers are very good. Technically, they are fine singers. But together, in these groups, I find them to be just this side of unbearable to watch. So much finger snapping and pageanty smiling and cruise-ship emoting that you simply cannot find it in your heart or mind to believe their song. One group had to sing Man in the Mirror by Michael Jackson. Say what you will about Michael Jackson, but that song was a goosebump song. MJ nailed that song--and the goosebumps. This group? Good singing, no goosebumps. Why? I argue because--by definition--an a cappella group cannot give you goosebumps. There is something about the group arrangement, the need to finger-snap, the urge to be as earnest as possible in every performance, that completely sucks the meaning and intent out of any song sung.

I know I'll get hate mail. I anticipate and kind of secretly enjoy it, because I know that in besmirching the good name of a cappella groups I have hit on the third rail of a certain strata of white upper middle classdom: "but my son was in the Whiffenpuffers from Colby College! But my daughter was the lead singer in the Hootnannies from Skidmore! How dare you insult performers like my son who sang admirably for the Prick-i-Tones of The Claremont Colleges!" I hear you. I'm sure your kid was awesome. I'm talking about those other kids; I swear. So do watch the show on NBC and let me know who wins, because I can't do one more night, not even for this blog.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Happy Hanukkah!

It's the most wonderful time of the year! For a Jewish kid, that is. Bambina is INSANE about Hanukkah, which is right on time seeing as she's five. It's wonderful to see her so excited to light the menorahs (we have 6 because I'm a light-up-the-darkness kind of girl) and to open her presents. The primary issue, as I suspect is the same for Christmas-celebrators, is allowing that joy about presents to be expressed without having it become the sole reason for the holiday. We had a few moments of joy-reducing drama the first night of Chanukah because she had no sooner opened her gifts, got giddy about them and played with them for 10 minutes, when she said, "I can't wait to see what I get tomorrow night!" Well, that didn't sit well with me one bit. Which I of course expressed to her in rather stern terms involving (perhaps unnecessary and as I reflect, overwhelming) sentiments like, "Ingratitude" and "Selfishness." Calm down, Mama. Settle down! So what I ended up saying after being ridiculously mad was, "When someone gives you a gift, you are to be thankful for it, and I know you are. But when you immediately start to talk about the next gift, it makes it seem like you don't really care about the gift you just got, and it can make you seem like someone who just cares about presents."

Well, duh. She's five. She just cares about presents. But you know what I'm saying. I'm trying to raise a human here, and that means she needs to learn things that can only be taught when she's still too young to understand them. So now we're practicing our "gift-receiving actions." Look at the gift, be excited (no acting necessary here), look at the person who gave it to you, tell them you love it, say thank you, hugs and kisses if appropriate, no discussion of tomorrow's gifts until tomorrow. In doing this exercise, I realized that kids really don't have this stuff innately, no matter how sweet they are; it simply has to be taught. A kid is all about the Id, right? Which is why grown-ups have to channel those impulses into socially-acceptable behavior.

So as mad as I was at Bambina, I realize now that she was just being five rather than demonstrating some profound failure in my parenting to date. I mean, now that I think about it, I turned out fine and I was as ungrateful as they came: my Mom had to rip up a thank-you letter I once wrote (at 5 or 6) because I ended the beautifully-written paean to the gift-giver with "Please give me more presents!"

Nice kid you have there, Mrs. Haggis.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Like You're Working Anyway...

Some links!

First, a WaPo article on how Jesse Jackson is pissed that he wasn't invited to the White House jobs summit and that Obama isn't doing more to address the recession's impact on African-American communities. Oh yes, that is political success in the making there; having our first black president focus his attention solely on black neighborhoods. THIS is why Jesse Jackson never got elected to anything: old school thinking. Your run for President of the United States, not of your ethnic group. This guy just keeps bringing The Stupid. That's all I can say. washingtonpost.coms

Next, seven foods experts will not eat. The major gross-out for me is what they feed farmed salmon. "hydrolized chicken feathers," anyone?

Next, I'm saying that if this is your friends' idea of a "drunken prank" then you need some new friends:

Next, a funny article proposing that we consign the word "douchebag" to history. Those of you over the age of say, 60, who cannot envision a scenario in which you'd utter that word can skip this one if you'd like.

And finally, speaking of douchebags, I mean, "assclowns," here's a list of GOP members who currently receive Medicare but who oppose the public option for the rest of us. I loves me some hypocrisy on a Friday morning!

Premature Award, Right On Time Speech

President Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize yesterday. The Haggis was on hiatus when the award announcement--and resulting controversy--erupted. So let's discuss that first. Did Obama deserve the award? I'm going to say no. But, as the President of the United States, was he at all at liberty to turn it down? Also no. To a certain extent the controversy was nonsense. People were acting like Barry had submitted his own name and lobbied for the prize. They were acting like he'd been named to some international list of evil miscreants, the way the tsk-tsking was going on, instead of saying, "Well how about that," and "Good for the USA to have our president win this award; not that we'd have awarded it ourselves." All from the America-haters on the Right. It reminded me of their glee when Chicago lost its bid for the Olympics. Rather than be bummed for America, for the lost revenue and honor of hosting the Olympics, they were almost delighted that Obama "failed" in his attempt. Like, screw America as long as we can score some cheap points against Obama. All very petty and unbecoming. As was the Nobel reaction. That said, I remember thinking at the time that the Norwegians did Obama no favors with this "honor."

So, to his speech yesterday. First he deftly and humorously addressed the issue of his meriting the award: "I receive this honor with deep gratitude and great humility. It is an award that speaks to our highest aspirations -- that for all the cruelty and hardship of our world, we are not mere prisoners of fate. Our actions matter, and can bend history in the direction of justice. And yet I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the considerable controversy that your generous decision has generated. (Laughter.) In part, this is because I am at the beginning, and not the end, of my labors on the world stage. Compared to some of the giants of history who've received this prize -- Schweitzer and King; Marshall and Mandela -- my accomplishments are slight. And then there are the men and women around the world who have been jailed and beaten in the pursuit of justice; those who toil in humanitarian organizations to relieve suffering; the unrecognized millions whose quiet acts of courage and compassion inspire even the most hardened cynics. I cannot argue with those who find these men and women -- some known, some obscure to all but those they help -- to be far more deserving of this honor than I."

Then to the Money Quote, the "just war" section that is now being called The Obama Doctrine:
We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth: We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations -- acting individually or in concert -- will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified. I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King Jr. said in this same ceremony years ago: "Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones." As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King's life work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there's nothing weak -- nothing passive -- nothing na├»ve -- in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King. But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism -- it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason. I raise this point, I begin with this point because in many countries there is a deep ambivalence about military action today, no matter what the cause. And at times, this is joined by a reflexive suspicion of America, the world's sole military superpower....Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: the United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms. The service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform has promoted peace and prosperity from Germany to Korea, and enabled democracy to take hold in places like the Balkans.”

My favorite part is at the end:
Somewhere today, in the here and now, in the world as it is, a soldier sees he's outgunned, but stands firm to keep the peace. Somewhere today, in this world, a young protestor awaits the brutality of her government, but has the courage to march on. Somewhere today, a mother facing punishing poverty still takes the time to teach her child, scrapes together what few coins she has to send that child to school -- because she believes that a cruel world still has a place for that child's dreams.
Let us live by their example.

Here is the full text:

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Hanukkah Music

Bambina and I are committed to coming up with some cool songs for Hanukkah. She would like one "as good as Let it Snow." So we're working on it. In the meantime, here is a cool one, all the way from Jerusalem, to the tune of "Hey Ya." My favorite line? "Oy is just Yo backwards."

In other, equally-exciting Judaic news, Orrin Hatch has just penned a Hanukkah song! I do not kid you on this. Enjoy, via Oliver Willis: The only thing that would make it better would be Orrin singing it himself.

This and That

First up, a Pew poll that shows more people believe in guardian angels than in humans' role in global warming: Awesome.

Next, a list of the Top Ten Video Games to Cross Off Your Kids' Christmas List. It's got the details on the games and various statements of outrage. But here's my thought: if it's rated M for Mature, might that be a parent's clue? Just wonderin'.

Next, my new favorite site on the web: What with our one income and our now twice-paid-for deck out back (oh, the story of the drunken contractor will be coming soon), funds have been in short supply at Chez Haggis. So I've been doing my best to find ways to save and ways to earn. One involves selling our stuff on craigslist and ebay. I just unloaded a giant buffet that fit in our DC rowhouse but was enormous in our little cottage here. Eight-five bucks cash, the BBDD helped the guy put it in his SUV, goodbye giant white elephant. Then I used that money to buy end tables plus gave the BBDD $15 for pocket money. Cost-neutral home improvement, baby! I got such a rush from getting rid of this giant piece of furniture that has been plaguing me since we moved in AND getting money to get cute little end tables in the bargain, that I started looking around the house for other stuff we could sell. The BBDD was dubious--and slightly concerned--since he is pretty sure we need everything we've got at this point. And we probably do. But the second something seems even remotely ancillary to our purposes? It's on the market.

So this site, Hey It's Free, is right up my alley. Free samples galore, coupons, rebates, you name it. I simply use an alias name for the mailable stuff and use my hotmail account for the online stuff and it never gets mixed in with my real life. I've had free samples of cereal bars, perfume, coffee, dental floss. All free. The reason I love this site in particular is that the site owner vets the offers for you, so they are not bait and switch or scams.

And finally, for those of you unaware of the trashiest show on TV, it is called "Jersey Shore." It's an MTV reality show about, well, the Jersey Shore. It has been slammed by Italian-American groups for it's unflattering and stereotypical portrayal of Italian-Americans. I think, however, it is not about Italian-Americans at all. It's about THE JERSEY SHORE. Much the same as the New York/Long Island loudmouth = Jewish canard, I reject the notion that Italian-Americans from the Shore behaving badly at all reflect the reality of Italian-Americans who live elsewhere. They simply reflect the reality of that region, whatever your ethnicity. My two cents. So--in the spirit of the show, this guy has created a Jersey Shore name generator. Mine: "The Position." Fist Pump!!

Bambina's Baby Sister

So we are well underway in getting to Baby Sister and bringing her home. We got the LOA (Letter of Acceptance) from China last week, and it has been a total sprint since then. "Please return this letter by December 7th." Which meant pulling together a ream of documentation, filling in several new forms, making three copies of the entire packet and fedexing it--by the next morning. No pressure. I have spent more time than I can calculate at a) my desk, pulling all our documents and compiling new ones; b) Staples, copying and faxing said documents; and c) Fedex, shipping said documents. Literally entire mornings have disappeared doing those three things. I recognize that (as I like to say) it "beats an episiotomy," (and it does). But there is an exquisite and unbearable pressure involved in the knowledge that if you fill in one thing on these forms wrong it can mean several more months before you can meet your child and bring her home, which at this point is too much for me to even contemplate. We are also up against the Chinese Lunar New Year clock, which begins on February 14th. New Year is possibly the most important holiday in China, meaning that all government offices and, really, everything closes for two weeks. Almost everyone in China is traveling to get home, which means (as our agency put it) 117,000 people in line for tickets--and that is just the Guangzhou train station. So, if we don't get the paperwork processed and get in to China before late January, we are not going until late February. I know: a month, a month, only a month. But when you've seen her photo--and she is already one year old, you just really want every other month of her life to be with you from now on. So let's pray to the Homeland Security gods that they will turn our paperwork around and get us into--and out of--China ASAP.

From my blog to God's ears?

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Keep the Santa in Christmas!

This is less of a post and more a request for advice. As my Dad used to say, "The Christmas season is once again at our throats." It's a holly, jolly time that we actually do enjoy even if we don't celebrate it ourselves. Bambina loves visiting her Christian friends' houses so she can see the trees and the lights. She has started a nutcracker collection. So we're down with celebrating the joy with our friends who celebrate. But here's the dilemma:

How do I explain to Bambina that Santa does not come to our house because---well, Santa is imaginary--without ruining it for her Santa-loving friends? I told her that we don't believe in Santa. But I can't and won't tell her that Santa is real, because a) he's not and b) then why would we not allow him to come to our house and spread joy? So I told her that her friends who believe in Santa really deserve to have a fun Christmas and it's not for us to tell them otherwise. But then I sound like I'm saying her friends are stupid or something, like, "Oh they believe in Santa, but we know better, don't we?" Which I don't want to do either. So what do we do? If we did celebrate Christmas, the Santa thing would have been over by now because Bambina is too aware of her surroundings to go with that myth. She just BARELY still believes in the tooth fairy, on the theory that no fairy in its right mind wants some kid's nasty teeth...and besides, where do they keep them all and what do they do with them? So we'd have a similar issue with "the magic of Santa" even if we weren't Jewish because she would totally pick apart the entire story, like, Okay fat man is not fitting in our chimney, and why doesn't he just knock, and how come I give the list to you if he's the present man? And how do the reindeer fly?

You want someone present at a police interrogation to pick apart the logic of an alibi? Bambina is your girl. You want a lawyer in the courtroom who can decimate a witness with a well-crafted logically-sound takedown? Bambina is your girl. You want her to believe that a chubby dude in red drops gifts down a chimney? She's seeing holes in that story from word one. [This is why I am so tired all the time, btw].

So--let me hear your comments and advice. Soon. Before Bambina begins The Great Santa Unraveling for her kindergarten class.

Gimme a K! Gimme an E! Gimme an N!...

It's Election Day here in Massachusetts; the special election to fill the seat of the recently-passed Ted Kennedy. Friends, a senatorial election without a Kennedy on the ballot? Me. Not. Understand. What. Box. To. Check? Me frightened and confused!

So, I voted for Martha Coakley. She's worked her butt off for MA for years, she's a woman (yeah, I said it!), and I think she has a chance of winning. I also liked Alan Khazei, but I just didn't see the numbers adding up for him in the end. So I went for Coakley. I mean, let's be honest here folks, it's not like any of the candidates were really different. This is Massachusetts. I've given up trying to find a pro-death penalty candidate I can agree with on 99% of the other issues. Can't be done. So I take the pinko with the liberal and consider my work here done. :) I know there is a Republican candidate but who knows what his name is. And I'm sure he's (and I'm sure he's a he) against the public option, which is a deal breaker for me.

So let's see how it shakes out. In any case, I'm missing Ted Kennedy.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

War is Hell

Of all the times I've wanted to be Barack Obama's girlfriend, mini-me or clone, this week would not be one of them.

Let's discuss Afghanistan, and let's be honest: there is no way to a clear victory in that country. Old Man McCain offered his supremely helpful input that 'success is the real exit strategy." Thanks, Uncle Cranky Pants, but what the hell does that MEAN? How many American lives to achieve "success"? And what is your definition of success? Some have said it would be a return to conditions pre-Soviet involvement. Um, that was decades ago--and predating the Taleban and al-Qaeda. So I'm going to say that's well-nigh impossible in this post-9/11 era. Others say that success means getting out right now before that con man Karzai can swindle us out of one more US dollar. Also moronic. Others have ignored success metrics and instead slammed Obama's speech, counting the number of times he used the word "I" (44) and the word "victory" (0). Most moronic of all. First of all, counting the number of "I's" in a speech and equating them to narcissism is juvenile. (I am so awesome vs. I am delighted to honor these Special Olympians today = same number of "I's" = vastly different speech). Secondly, no president in his right mind is going to go on record promising, vowing or claiming "victory" in fucking AFGHANISTAN. You're familiar with Afghanistan? Warlords. Tribes. A constant state of civil war since the 1970's. Bordered by Pakistan (the real place we need to clean up, but--again--how the hell do you do that?), China, Turkmenistan, et. al. A country in which the West has meddled and fiddled since the 19th century. This is not a country that lends itself to "victory" in a way that Americans like to see it, with ticker tape parades and hot GIs kissing sassy dames at train stations. Afghanistan is work--and plenty of it. So you'll forgive me for being glad Obama didn't don a flight suit and declare mission accomplished to appease the Cheneyites of America.

My personal opinion is that Obama's plan has pissed off enough people on both sides that it is probably somewhat the way to go. When Michael Moore and Bill Ayers essentially disown you for becoming a "war president?" You're probably doing something right. When Robert Kagan, himself no stranger to cheerleading surges, says that Obama's decision is a lonely one, and one that he (Kagan) would not know how to make? You know you're probably doing something right.

Tiger is a Dog

I know it's annoying to talk about a golfer making the seksi time with women not his wife. But, let's do it anyway, shall we?!

Okay, let's don't. But do enjoy the Woods Family Christmas card.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Check Back Tonight!

Oh, there will be blogging.

Obama's speech about Afghanistan.
Obama's plan for Afghanistan.
John McCain's nonsense metrics for Afghanistan.
Tiger Woods.

Monday, November 30, 2009


Well, it's been quite a few days, has it not?

Let's begin with the couple who committed a home invasion of the White House during the Indian PM's state dinner. This is what it's come to, folks. So desperate to get on TV that we will consider gate crashing a White House event WITH CAMERAS in tow. No shame. Now while the Secret Service gets a foot put up its ass and thanks god it was only two loser Bravo TV wannabes who got past the clearly lackluster security, we can all look forward to these shameless asshats on our TV justifying their unjustifiable actions. It does make you wonder something, though: why are they not in jail? What if it were, say, you and I who just decided to walk in? What if we were, say, three teenage black kids? Would we be fielding offers from ABC--or would we be incarcerated somewhere already? Hell, the balloon boy's parents got served! Why not this couple? On the other hand, perhaps we should thank them for apparently waltzing through a security system that, were it in a Nicolas Cage movie, would make me snort with laughter, like, oh yeah, we're just supposed to believe the White House Security Gate just waves him in because he's dressed up fancy! Apparently, Nic Cage knows from security...

Let's now move on to the animal who killed four Seattle-area police officers. How was this man on the street? I know; his sentence was commuted by Mike Huckabee because he was 17 at the time of the commutation. Another part of the reason? The suspect, Clemmons, said he'd changed, and Huckabee and Judge Marion Humphrey--both ministers--believed in giving second chances. It's a tragedy from every angle, all the more so because it was preventable. This is disgusting and horrifying and truly tragic. I wonder how many other issues of law in Arkansas were decided on similar biblical principles.

For the frequent fliers among you, this little nugget of nastiness from the FAA: Not to worry about those parts causing rare mid-flight engine shutdowns on Boeing 777's. We had ordered them grounded, but since the replacement parts are hard to get, we'll let them fly till 2011. Enjoy those pretzels, folks.

And on a completely different note, some pics from Afghanistan, showing our servicemen and women doing some amazing work. It puts my little rant here in stark contrast to the real work these folks are doing. Thanks to all of them. Let's hope Obama has some good news tomorrow night.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Martha Speaks

Martha Stewart nails it on Sarah Palin. Somebody keep this lady drinkin' because she is speaking my language. Last week she was all up in Rachael Ray's grill about not being a real cook (thank you) and this week smackin' it down on Palin. I loves it!

Welcome to the Dollhouse

I read with interest and annoyance the following article in the Wall Street Journal by Megan Cox Gurdon:

It asks, "Do Our Dolls Have to Look Like Us?" and answers--big surprise from the WSJ--"Naaah." The author's point is that adults try to politicize dolls (not black enough, hair too straight, etc), whereas kids just want to play with them; therefore it is ridiculous that the toy companies are jumping through such hoops to bring diverse dolls to market. What's amazing is that the author cites two seminal studies demonstrating the negative effects on children of color when given only white dolls, but she still arrives at the same conclusion: What a pain! Why bother!? And the best, a line that said something to the effect of: "my one black friend growing up loved her Skipper and Barbie dolls!" Of course it's not a problem then, because you know ONE BLACK PERSON who had fun with Barbie! That must mean that ALL black people are just like your friend, being as how she's representative of an entire group of people by virtue of her blackness. Gimme a break.

Listen, I get what she's saying up to a point. Adults can get wiggy about stuff that goes over the heads of kids. But to then extrapolate that to conclude that dolls don't really have to look like a kid because--hey--the author's white kid just loooooves her Kaya Native American doll (whom the author calls an "American Indian")! So if white kids love dolls who happen to be of another race, why can't kids of other races just get on board with white dolls, huh? Well, they can. They've been doing it for hundreds of years. Hundreds of years up until only the past, say, five to eight years, if we're discussing widely-available mass-produced dolls. Readers will recall my quest--in Washington DC--to find a doll for Bambina that was even slightly more colored than alabaster, and this in 2005 in a major city. It was not an easy task. No, Ms. Cox Gurdon, it's not that people of color can't get on board with white dolls; that's been done. It's that, as the white parent of a white child, you will never walk into a store and ponder why NOT ONE doll in the entire building even remotely resembles your child. And again, you will ask, "Well, why does it matter?" And, again, as the white parent of a white child, you will not understand my answer when I say, "Because I have seen my daughter's face when met with a doll that Looks Like Her. I have seen the spark of recognition. I have seen the pride. I have seen the excitement that this perfect mirror image of herself has been placed in her grasp."

Of course she has white dolls she plays with. Of course she has black dolls she plays with. She likes them all. But when she was given the chance to get an American Girl doll, her first choice was Ivy Ling, the Chinese-American doll who is friends with white, blond Julie in 1974 San Francisco. She loves the Julie and Ivy stories and has her hopes set on a Julie doll as well, but when given the choice, she chose Ivy first. When she plays with and talks to Ivy, I can hear how the doll is a reflection of Bambina: "Oh, Ivy, you celebrate Chinese New Year just like we do; and since you don't celebrate Christmas in the books except with Julie's family, I think you celebrate Hanukkah like me. Welcome to our family!" And then Ivy becomes a doll to be dressed and undressed, taken places, and handled just as her other dolls of various racial origins are handled. But those tiny moments, those fleeting moments, when I hear my child speak alone with her Chinese doll, I get it. I get it in a way Ms. Cox Gurdon cannot get it.

We all want to see ourselves reflected in the important things of our world; it is a human need, as old as time. Western Christendom depicted Jesus as white with blue eyes. Completely unlikely and almost impossible for someone of that time and that place to look remotely white, but there he is: your Aryan Jesus of Nazareth, for the ages. I for one am glad that the toy industry is no longer telling kids of color that they don't exist, that they don't merit a line of production. You can slam marketing and product-pushing all you want. What I'm talking about is the fact that American Girl and Disney are acknowledging that their customer base EXISTS, that there is something powerful about imaginative play, especially when it acknowledges the personhood of the girl playing. That ALL girls of ALL races benefit when given a diversity of options and stories to imagine and build upon.

ps--This entire post leaves out my parental concern, at least vis a vis American Girl, that their Asian dolls are all light-skinned. Baby steps, I say. Baby steps.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Welcome, H1N1

And just as the blog was off to a decent-enough start, the Bambina has come down with the dreaded porcine influenza. It's officially unconfirmed because they don't test for it, but her symptoms are all consistent, according to the ER (which we just visited in the wee hours), with H1N1. Ragingly high fever, emphysema-like cough, and major body aches and pains to the point of tears. Oh, it's a fiesta here at Chez Haggis. A regular fiesta.

Since I only got my shot on Wednesday and am therefore not immune yet, I will most likely be next in line, followed by the BBDD who is screwed either way: he'll either be sick himself or taking care of us. Fan-f*cking-tastic.

I knew it was coming. One of Bambina's friends got sent home from school on Friday after throwing up and spiking a high fever. When his mom mentioned that it was not a stomach virus but..dunh dunh dunh!...H1N1, I knew that mess was in the mail. Well, the package arrived at 3am in the form of a screaming child with a 102 fever and unbearable stomach pain. The doctor said to ER her, they checked for pneumonia, found none but found bronchitis--and the flu.

So although I'm certain I'm already infected due to all kinds of normal contact, the Baby Daddy is downstairs with the girl since I am attempting to limit any further ingestion of her germs. Then he can sleep today and I'll take care of her, and then we'll switch again. Until the next domino falls...

Friday, November 20, 2009

Punching Out

Here are some links for you on this Friday afternoon:

First, Roy Keane, star Irish footballer discusses why the Irish are whiners about losing to France. He also, a couple of minutes in, takes out a guy whose cell phone keeps ringing. Fun TV--especially because Roy Keane is a hottie.

Next, a story on the ludicrous notion that Lou Dobbs will run for the White House or Senate. Oh, please bring that on!

In the "now that is giant balls" department, a woman organizes a fundraiser to help the victim of a hit-and-run. Only, she steals the money to pay the bail of the suspect in the hit-and-run. Stay classy, America.‘%20fundraiser%20%20misused

The final link's first paragraph says it all: "An eminent rabbi was so exhausted after three days of constant cocaine-fuelled partying with escorts that his pimp grew worried and cancelled that day’s supply of girls."

And with that, friends, I wish bid you Gut Shabbes!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Palin: Best Fiction Writer of 2009?

The Palin Train just keeps rollin' along! As a DNC memo said yesterday: If Republicans want to anoint SP as their standard bearer: "God bless." Although, my own personal patriotism and love for this beautiful country should preclude too much glee here, since anytime someone runs for something, they might actually win. And a Sarah Palin win for any office, much less the Presidency, would be a catastrophe unlike any before in our history. Here's a link to the first TWENTY-TWO fabrications in her book (half-way down the page):

As much as I have shredded John McCain in these pages for his choice of Palin, I was glad to see him yesterday finally come to the defense of his staffers who have been the victims of career assassination at the hands of Palin. I mean, if Palin is to be believed, Nicole Wallace convinced her to do the infamous interview with Katie Couric because Katie had "low self-esteem." If true, Ms. Wallace is unemployable in electoral politics. Having seen Ms. Wallace's work and seeing her appearance on Rachel Maddow's show where she called Palin's account, rather credibly, "fiction," I'm inclined to believe her.

In my writing class we talked at great length about the difference between non-fiction, creative non-fiction and fiction. We were to write non-fiction. If you could not remember a detail you were not to make it up; you were to find a way to make the lack of memory work in the story: "I don't recall the way she said it, but I left with the impression that I was to..." It lets you continue with YOUR truth, your memories of the event, without inventing quotes for others and without putting the veneer of fact on what is only a spotty memory. It respects the genre, and it respects the people in your story.

Compare Going Rogue to George Stephanopoulos' All Too Human. At the time ATH came out I was outraged that a White House staffer would reveal his conversations with the President. I refused to buy the book and cursed Georgie S a blue streak. But if you read the book (it fell open off my Republican colleague's desk one day...) you will see that it is based on his copious daily notes and his memos from the time of the events. It is a well-sourced book. Most importantly, where relevant, Stephanopoulos goes to great lengths to say, "These are my recollections of the conversation/the meeting/the argument; xy may disagree." So even though I was mad that he wrote the book (which now seems quaintly tame in comparison to other people's works published in the past decade), I was heartened to see that it was not a hatchet job, a score-settling or a work of creative non-fiction in which embellishments to the truth were acceptable. He was trying to be truthful to the events, the moments, and the people insofar as any human writer can do.

Going Rogue is its own animal. Why I think I find it so interesting, to be honest is that it puts Palin's political career and writing/TV appearance career on a collision course. If she runs for office, she will have to defend her record--which now includes this book. It's just rather breathtaking, is what I'm saying, for a person who seems to have aspirations for higher office to write a book whose facts are so easily discredited, and whose idea of interesting anecdotes includes this very classy nugget:

All I'm saying is that maybe the book will fall open off the shelf at my local bookstore today...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

As Good As It Gets

I'm at Dana Farber today for my now-ongoing GVHD drama. The crap news: I have developing skin GVHD, wherein the connective tissue and my skin are sticking to my muscles. So when I move my arm, a dimpled, tight-feeling line is visible where all these things that are supposed to slide smoothly over and around each other are getting stuck together. It's as beautiful-looking as it sounds.

But, now the good news: If I can stay on my current dose of immunosuppressives or less, I can travel to China to bring home baby sister! Woo Hoo!

Further good news: I'm getting my H1N1 vaccination in about 5 minutes, and there is no peace of mind like the H1N1 peace of mind, my friends. My doctor was totally fine with me getting any virus, any bacteria, but he said in no uncertain terms: "You really, really do not want to get H1N1. It kills people like you, and fast." So we've all just been waiting and waiting for a shipment, and it finally arrived for the good people of DF today...and I'm at the head of the line.

All told, I'm thinking this is a good day, even as I reflect on my new definition of "good" from, say, ten years ago. The threshold for "good" is far lower, but the joy in feeling it is far greater.
I'll take it. :)

All Things Palin

First, a good little blurb by Andrew Sullivan who, quite rightly, holds John McCain to account for the fact that we even know who this woman is. His point? No one else seems to doing it--and why is that? Why is no one asking John McCain to account for his clearly cynical and capricious and truly dangerous act of having Sarah Palin come *this* close to having her finger on the button?

Next, some emails from the campaign that show the increasing bad blood between the Palin and McCain staff, and show the ways in which Sarah Palin was "going rogue" by refusing to shake Paul Celucci's hand or to have a Senator ride along with her.

And finally, although I don't always love him, Richard Cohen sums it up, at least for me. Best line? She has a phenomenal favorability rating among Republicans -- 76 percent -- who have a quite irrational belief that she would not make such a bad president. What they mean is that she will act out their resentments -- take an ax to the people and institutions they hate. The Palin Movement is fueled by high-octane bile, and it is worth watching and studying for these reasons alone.

I will say one thing in her defense: Newsweek should have used a different cover photo. Yes, she previously had posed in her shorts for Runners World or whatever sports mag it was, but just to be consistent on what I'd have said had it been any other female in politics, I have to say that, at least on this one thing, Palin is right; that cover was sexist.

Monday, November 16, 2009

I'm Here, I've Got No Career, Get Used To It!

Such is my new mantra for all those parades and marches I'll be doing as a confirmed stay-at-home mom.

I came to the conclusion recently, as I managed to do no writing after my writing class ended, that the best way to be able to write write. To write anything. To write every day. To make myself write, even if its drivel. Because the process of writing something, anything keeps one's brain in writer mode and helps ensure that something will come when the need arises. I thought that putting the blog to the side would give me time to pursue my Capital W, Capital C Writing Career. It certainly did while my writing class was in session. I produced several really promising essay drafts, one of which I will be submitting to some journals in the near future. On the other hand, when the class ended, I got sucked into kindergarten drama, GVHD health drama, and a million other minor dramas that all somehow made me "too busy" to write. Then once I was too busy to write, the urge to write declined, the ability to write declined, and hell--the ability to competently read others' writing declined. It was not a good situation. So I finally gave myself a break: I don't have to become A Writer at this point in my life. I have genuinely full days doing my "mommy job" as Bambina calls it, most days to the point that I do not sit down once until maybe 4pm. I literally do not get my ass in a chair until the late afternoon. I eat while moving, I talk while moving, I am mostly always moving. So trying to create a writing career at this point is, to put it mildly, a bit daunting and ambitious.

Which is why I decided to simply be a mom who writes. I'll write this blog and that will inspire me to finish the essays and get them out. It will keep my mental acuity, it will ensure my sanity, and it will no doubt be done between the hours of 11pm and 7am. All achievable goals within the constraints of the job I currently have, which as moms know, is a 24-hour gig.

So--welcome back to my loyal readers (all 9 of you!). Welcome to new readers from NaBloPoMo (a rather porny acronym for National Blog Posting Month), and a hearty Welcome The Eff Back to my mom who never tires of being appalled by my "bad language."


Welcome to the new Star Spangled Haggis!

By which I mean, of course, the same old Star Spangled Haggis with different colors and layouts.

It seemed like it was time to update my 2004 design since, as I recall, that was the only design available when I started the blog. I hope the new font is agreeable and that I don't get those nasty letters from senior citizens that many of my charitable employers got demanding that everything be in LARGE TYPE on a white background. Any other complaints, you just forward along and I'll ignore them. :)

Kindergarten Competition

As many of you know, Bambina is now in kindergarten. (Sweet Bambina of babyhood, just 4 1/2 years does it happen? Where does the time go?) I recognize we are having a non-traditional transition to kindergarten due to Bambina's now-anxiety about my then-transplant. However, one of the things I realized while talking with her teacher and school psychologist is that Bambina is among the youngest in her class. They mentioned this fact, not as a hint that she should not be in kindergarten because she is clearly ready for kindergarten, but to emphasize that comparing her to other kids in the class is unfair and unwarranted. Why? Because she is not yet 5 1/2 and a good 80% of her class is already 6. Folks who don't really make it their business to know about kids (=me about 6 years ago) may not know that the developmental difference between 5.4 and 6.2 is HUGE. The grasp of fantasy vs. reality, the ability to communicate in groups, to navigate school hallways confidently, to grasp math and reading concepts: the delta between what a 5 year-old and a 6 year-old can bring to these concepts is simply enormous.

So why this giant age gap? Well, in some cases the kids legitimately missed the age cutoff for our town. So, for example, if the cutoff is September 1st, and your kid turned 5 last September 3rd, guess what? Your 6 year old is now in my 5 year-old's kindergarten class. Fair enough. In other cases, the kids were held back because they really were not kindergarten-ready, socially or academically, and truly benefited from a year of Transitional Kindergarten at a preschool. However--in some cases, parents held their kids back, even if they met the age cutoff, in order to give their kids an edge in school and sports. Yes. You heard me right. Some parents, even knowing that their kids are ready for kindergarten, are holding them back so they will be smarter and physically bigger than their peers. What's the big deal, you ask? Well, as my teacher friends tell me, it pushes academic learning down into kindergarten, kindergarten learning down into preschool, and creates social issues like the ones faced by Bambina in her class, where the teacher is trying to manage the learning and behaviors of both just-5-year-olds and truly "mature" 6 1/2 year olds.

The difference was obvious at Halloween. The 5 year-olds were dressed as princesses, fairies, dragons, (Bambina = Wonder Woman). The 6 and ups were dressed as Hannah Montana, soldiers, Darth Vader, the creepy-faced mask from Scream. That little costume parade at school was a visual representation of where these kids are, and how they are all across the board. I help out in the class sometimes, and the social differences are staggering. The six-plusses tend to clique more, and they are definitely on the leading edge of making fun of others and knowing what is on TV after 6pm, ie Hannah Montana, ICarly. The fives are still very much, "Hey! That's not nice! You are not being a good friend!" and liking SuperWhy.

So what's my point? My usual: I don't like that. And I think if your kid is eligible and ready for kindergarten, his booty should be sent to kindergarten where he belongs, hockey or soccer scholarships to college be damned.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Ultras vs. Intel

Here's an article about how Intel may close its Jerusalem plant because ultra-orthodox Jewish Israelis are staging disruptive protests because the company is open on the Sabbath--and is allowing Jews to work on the Sabbath if they so choose.

You can read the article, but my major question to the Ultra-O's is this: If Shabbat is so holy and intended only for rest and study, why the hell are you standing outside a factory yelling and marching on the Sabbath? If your asses were in temple or doing what else you're supposed to be doing (ie, observing the Sabbath), wouldn't you be unable to be at the protest?

Just wondering.

The Bow Heard Round the World

Oh yes, our America-hating President is at it again: greeting foreign leaders according to protocol, to the incandescent rage of the moronic American Right.

To be fair, he didn't do it exactly right in the photo of him with the Emperor; too low, not from the waist. But he did it perfectly correctly with the Empress just seconds later and later on at Suntory Hall. Anyone seen those photos? It's running on Japanese TV. The errors on both sides are pretty well summed up here:

Again, it is simply ludicrous to say that because the POTUS bows (however inartfully) to another foreign leader, he is somehow BOWING to that leader. Aren't we smarter than this? After all, here is avowed socialist pinko America-hater Richard Nixon not only bowing to, but clinking glasses with his Chinese counterpart as Pat Buchanan (circled) looks on. So if Obama's unamerican for bowing to a sovereign, what was Nixon for bowing to a Communist? Come on now. Surely you guys can find something else--something worthwhile--on which to disagree with Obama? There's a list of stuff to hate (says you); you don't need to drink the haterade on this. Everybody move on, now. Isn't there a Kenyan birth certificate to be unearthed?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

John McCain: What Hath You Wrought?

You know you are a lunatic when even Fox News has to fact-check you. I'm looking at you, Sarah Palin.

This tidbit reveals that Sarah Palin--our almost Vice President--wondered aloud at a speech why the words "In God We Trust" had been moved to the side of our dollar coins instead of front and center, implying that our Kenyan Muslim Savior-King's White House was behind this terrible disrespecting of the Supreme Being.

Turns out the changes were made in 2005. Back when Bush was president. This woman is a joke. The only problem is, there were probably hundreds of senior citizens and half-wits listening to her who now are telling everyone they know that Obama hates God and is secretly changing our currency.

I still blame John McCain.

Master of Eminent Domain

And...beaten to it Popehat/. Another excellent post I was going to write on the Kelo v. New London decision. Having spent a great deal of time in New London, this case was of particular interest. You may recall it was the famous case of the US Supreme Court allowing the City of New London to take Mrs. Kelo's home on the basis of public interest (in this case, Pfizer was going to develop the land and return New London to its former glory). Yes, you read that right: the US Supreme Court allowed the government to take a woman's land and give it to a corporation. I'm sure it all worked out great, then, and New London is once again a beacon of light in Southeastern Connecticut!

Or not.

Afghanistanic Panic

I was going to write a post on this latest development in the Afghanistan troop (non)surge, but as always Newshoggers did it already and did it better.

It's pretty obvious Obama is between a rock and a hard place on this, which of course is the definition of his job. But still. I heard the morons on that Fox morning show pontificating the other day about how Obama is wasting time by not committing an additional 40,000 troops immediately, and if he'd done it sooner, the job could be done sooner, and how every minute he "wastes" is another minute Americans could be at risk. Blah blah. I'm sorry--you were hoping for a president who would rush 40,000 of our sons and daughters, fathers and mothers into a country with a semi-legitimate, fully-corrupt leader who has recently made all kinds of uncomplimentary remarks about the American presence in his country? Oh yes, Cheney, that's called "dithering" isn't it? Or. You know. It could be called doing the job correctly. Weighing the options. Seeing a shithole for what it is before you jump into it--or more accurately--issue the order to send 40,000 other people jumping into it, some never to get out. "But Obama needs to listen to the Generals!" Yes he does. But generals don't speak with unanimity (as this article proves), and no one is going to blame the generals if it all goes sideways. I guarantee you weeks of bellowing, frothing coverage of "the Afghanistan quagmire" on Fox, of Obama's incompetence, of his disregard for our soldiers, of his elite lack of knowledge of all things military. Those cats on Fox don't care about the military; they only care about ratings. Why else would they be cheerleading a rushed troop buildup in what is clearly a less-than-ideal situation?

Sending troops into harm's way is the most grave responsibility of the President of the United States. You can wish for the good old days of "We're gonna smoke 'em out!" followed by an immediate troop commitment, followed by a miserable conflict in which thousands of Americans are not "welcomed like liberators," but are instead killed. You go on with yourself and long for those days if you must. Me? I'll take the reality-based view instead: perhaps we cannot help a country rid itself of the Taliban if that country's leader is hated by his people, steals from his people, and doesn't seem too concerned himself with ridding his country of the Taliban.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

For Those Of You Keeping Score At Home...

...we recently heard from China. Baby Sister will be home sometime in early 2010! So you can all update your scorecards to reflect Haggis Family +1 = 4. :)

It has been a long wait, but one that has made this result possible. If she'd arrived in the fleeting 9 months it took for Bambina I would have been very sick and we'd have been unable to complete the adoption. If she'd arrived in 2 years, I'd have been just coming out of isolation and unable to really be a full-time mother to both girls. So we waited and waited--and the waiting was good. It caused me to reflect on how much of life can involve waiting, and on how much life can be sweet if we view the waiting as a necessary time rather than a punishment.

I think back to all the times I was waiting and praying and hoping for something but failing to realize that maybe I wasn't ready just when I thought I was. I wonder if God (or the universe or whomever) creates these fallow times in order to create some change in us that needs to occur before we can be ready for the blessing we're awaiting. Bambina has been struggling with kindergarten transition, generalized anxiety and a delayed (or right on time?) reaction to my transplant from 2 years ago. It has been a daily, hourly, minute-by-minute drama for all of us as her intellect has caught up to her memories. It's as though she has just figured out that what happened back when she was 3 was really, really scary and serious. And so she must process these feelings now, with us, her school and a child psychologist's help. I awake every day ready to go pick up my second daughter. But I view the wait as my opportunity and my privilege to ensure that my first daughter emerges from the situations of her young life unharmed and healthy. Bambina needs me right now, completely. And I know that the wait for Baby Sister is making it possible for me to focus totally on Bambina, as I need to. She's been through a lot of stuff in her 5 short years, dealt with separations and losses and feelings that most people don't experience till adolescence. So her anxiety is no mystery and no cause for shame. It's simply something we will all work through together and emerge stronger on the other side. While we wait.

Fort Hood

Oh, good grief. I don't want to be a jerk, but can we please call this what it was? An evil person, misusing Islam, brutally murdered 13 people. There. I said it. The "I" word. How many talking heads are going to say that this was not about Islam? I mean, okay, it wasn't; not only. But had he been a graduate of Oral Roberts University, a teabagger and a member of some cuckoo Christian fundamentalist church, we all would have agreed that his psycho reading of religion was THE REASON for his attack. Why can't we just say the same for our Muslim attacker in this case?

I know. Not the post you expected from fat-headed liberal me. But, really. It does Islam no honor to be danced around in this manner. It does Muslims no honor to be patronized in this manner. This monster of a man used his religion as an excuse to kill people. It happens all the time. (Recall that Yitzhak Rabin himself was killed by a nutjob fundamentalist Jew). So why are we so skittish about saying so when it involves Islam? To my mind, just saying so doesn't dishonor decent Muslims at all. In fact, to pretend that somehow religion was not involved in this attack is the real dishonor, because it implies that Muslims are not full members of American society and somehow cannot be treated like everyone else.

So let's say it together: Nutjob people of all religions do terrible, terrible things to their fellow creatures created by God. Now let's work within and among our religions to root them out, shun them and shame them. Let us not let our religion be defined by the extreme, intolerant, evil, murderous thugs who inhabit our communities. Let's stand up, call them out, and--as President Obama so deftly said in his remarks at Fort Hood yesterday--ensure that they face justice:

"It may be hard to comprehend the twisted logic that led to this tragedy. But this much we do know - no faith justifies these murderous and craven acts; no just and loving God looks upon them with favor. And for what he has done, we know that the killer will be met with justice - in this world, and the next."

Veterans Day

Yesterday I was explaining to Bambina why she has a day off school today. I was trying to explain it in a way that made sense to a 5 year-old without scaring her (soldiers with guns! Fighting! Wars!). So I said this:

We honor veterans (like your BB was) because they protect us. Because they protect our friends in other countries. Because they make it possible for us to go about our business without having to worry. Because they spend lots of time away from their kids doing their jobs. Because they don't get to leave work early to come to their child's school event. Because they don't get to stay home when they have a sniffle. Because they don't get to sit around the breakfast table with their families every morning. Because they do a very hard job for not a lot of pay. Because they do the daily work to keep our country free.

I'll work on it for next year, but since her response was, "Well, that is an important holiday; should we send the veterans some American Girl dolls and candy to say thank you?" I think I did my job.

Thank you, veterans!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Easing Back In

...with links!

First, perhaps the funniest Twitter account ever created:

A 29 year-old lives with his 73 year-old dad. These are the things the dad says. I damn near peed my pants, specifically at the "Sometimes life leaves you a $100 bill on your dresser and you don't realize till later that it's because it f**&ed you."

Next, Just in case you're desperately interested in which celebrities have already had swine flu/H1N1.

And, in the "Everything I Touch Turns to Sh*t" department, I give you British PM Gordon Brown who misspelled the deceased's name in his condolence letter to the mother of a killed British soldier. And some other mistakes as well. About twenty, actually.

Stay tuned! In the meantime, here's one more from Sam, the dad who says sh*t: "I wanted to see Detroit win. I've been there. It's like God took a sh*t on a parking lot. They deserve some good news."

Monday, November 09, 2009

My Loss Is Your Gain

Don't look now, but it appears that The Haggis is back.

So--what has precipitated this earth-shattering event?

Did I finally publish that book?
Did I finally meet and seduce Ewan McGregor?
Did I finally score my actual age on that Real Age test, rather than being told I'm 52?
Did I finally admit an addiction to meth during my tennis career?

Sadly, no on all counts. But I did get prescribed some more prednisone! And long-time readers will recall that prednisone = insomnia + productivity. Ergo, I now have 5 or 6 extra hours a day to do what the experts call "stuff," one element of which is blogging.

I've missed you, friends. I've stifled many a rant over the past few months, having no outlet for their fury. So--let's begin again, shall we?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Summer Vacation

Hi All,

As is patently obvious, I do not have the time these days to appropriately and competently blog. My writing time is being devoted to the class, from which I hope to create a few publishable items. Which means the time--and material--I have for poor old SSHaggis is limited. So rather than intermittently suck, I'm going to take another sabbatical.

Thanks for reading and for checking back. To tide you over I am linking to Bill Shatner doing Sarah Palin's retirement speech. It is beat poetry at its finest.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Arrested for Being Black and Loud

The story of august and respected Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates being arrested on suspicion of breaking into HIS OWN HOME. The police report states that he was actually arrested for being disorderly and "tumultuous" with the police officer. Oh, you mean the police officer standing in YOUR house demanding to see YOUR ID to prove that YOU live in YOUR house?!! So apparently Dr. Gates showed his Harvard ID but none too happily, which devolved into being arrested for not being pleasant about being asked to prove he lived in his own house.

This is racist. This is racist. If you can't figure out why, I'm not sure I can help you because this is SO OBVIOUS. See all these ALL CAPS? That's when you know I'm pissed off on my blog. Imagine this scenario with a white distinguished professor at Harvard. A white woman sees a bespectacled older white man with a cane leaning into his door with a friend trying to open it. She immediately assumes these older gentlemen are obviously breaking into a house not their own. Why else would two white men be messing with a stuck door? When the police arrive, the white man takes umbrage at being asked to prove that he lives in his own house. He shows ID under protest, but is arrested anyway for being rude to the police officer because obviously anyone of any color and any social stature is arrested for yelling at a police officer who is, at this point, in your home with no cause.

How do you think that would play in the media? And yet, with Dr. Gates we have all the white people commenting that he should just have kept calm and showed his ID without getting all mad (read = uppity). Think about that. Some cop walks into YOUR house and demands proof that it's your house. You offer proof, and instead of saying, "Well, sorry about the misunderstanding" the officer remains unsure that the home is yours and arrests you for being pissed that he's in your house.

Officer, take a fucking look around at all the photos of ME in the house! Take a look at my cane! Look at my khaki pants and designer blazer, not to mention MY HARVARD ID. Do I look like I'm the profile to be breaking and entering in the light of day?

This entire situation is bullshit. First, the woman who made the call, who also (maybe, used to, at this point) works for Harvard. Every assumption about black men came into play with that phone call. She ignored every indication that this was not a B&E: his age, his physical condition, his deportment. All she saw was "Black Guy Struggling With Door" = obvious crime in progress. Let's all examine our own hearts and vow to not be this woman.

Second, the police officer. Completely ill-equipped to deal with this situation from a social, emotional and professional perspective. I'm certain that Dr. Gates asked for this man's badge number. The article stated that Dr. Gates wanted to get the Chief of Police on the line, and shouted that the officer did not know who he was dealing with. Well, that much is true. This is a clusterfuck from the word Go, and it should be put in training manuals going forward. For example, if you arrive at a potential B&E to find the avuncular owner of the property in residence after struggling with his door, consider your work here done. And do understand that you've just invaded and violated a person's home by accusing him of breaking into it.

All I'm saying is two things: Simply imagine yourself in Dr. Gates' situation and ask yourself if you wouldn't get "tumultuous" as well. I sure would. And also recognize that this type of insidious racism exists. I mean, how much does a black man have to achieve, how much money does he need to earn, how much of a beautiful home in Cambridge must he live in, in order to not be randomly considered a criminal? That woman most likely doesn't dislike black people, but when she saw this situation all she saw was a criminal. That is the bone-deep, reflexive racism we all have to root out and destroy within ourselves. Racism is a cancer on our society, but as the great philosopher Sting once sang, "Men go crazy in congregations; they only get better one by one."

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Senate Follies

Some beautiful nuggets from the Sonia Sotomayor confirmation hearings, all from Republicans of course:

First, a lack of basic civility and manners:

SEN. JON KYL: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Judge, could I return briefly to a series of questions that Senator Feingold asked at the very beginning relating to the Maloney decision relating to the Second Amendment.


KYL: Yes...

SOTOMAYOR: Good afternoon, by the way.

KYL: Oh, I'm sorry?

SOTOMAYOR: Good afternoon, by the way.

KYL: Yes, good afternoon. You had indicated, of course, if that case were to come before the court, under the recusal statute, you would recuse yourself from participating in the decision.

Next, an apparent belief that judges of the same ethnicity should vote the same way:

SESSIONS: You voted not to reconsider the prior case. You voted to stay with the decision of the circuit. And in fact your vote was the key vote. Had you voted with Judge Cabranes, himself of Puerto Rican ancestry, had you voted with him, you could’ve changed that case. Sessions then deemed Sotomayor "unsuitable for the bench" because she had been involved with the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF). Sessions was obviously unaware that Judge Cabranes also served on PRLDEF’s board.

And, of course, Lindsey Graham, whose questioning of Sotomayor is available here Did he let her answer even one question? He pretty much just listed his grievances, asked his moronic questions ("Do you understand military law?" Well, NO, idiot), and then moved on to his next talking point. I think Sotomayor spoke about 5 times, Graham about 50. What this transcript doesn't reflect is the sneering self-satisfaction of Graham as he's performing.

Each of these examples leads me to wonder under what circumstances the GOP will ever win the Latino vote again. It's less the questioning and more the attitude, the condescension, the cluelessness with which the questions are asked. These guys are relics and they seem not to know it. Which can only be good for the Dems. Viva le GOP!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Oh Snap, Sessions!

From the Washington Wire:

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.), seeking to discredit Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s judicial philosophy, cited her 2001 “wise Latina” speech, and contrasted the view that ethnicity and sex influence judging with that of Judge Miriam Cedarbaum, who “believes that judges must transcend their personal sympathies and prejudices.”

Associated Press
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.), ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, questions Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, during her confirmation hearing before the committee Tuesday. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) is at left.
“So I would just say to you, I believe in Judge Cedarbaum’s formulation,” Sessions told Sotomayor.

“My friend Judge Cedarbaum is here,” Sotomayor riposted, to Sessions’ apparent surprise. “We are good friends, and I believe that we both approach judging in the same way, which is looking at the facts of each individual case and applying the law to those facts.”

Cedarbaum agreed.

“I don’t believe for a minute that there are any differences in our approach to judging, and her personal predilections have no effect on her approach to judging,” she told Washington Wire. “We’d both like to see more women on the courts,” she added.

Cedarbaum, a pioneering woman lawyer who graduated from Columbia Law School in 1953, goes way back with both participants in the colloquy. Cedarbaum mentored Sotomayor after she joined the federal district court in Manhattan in 1992, and they have been close friends ever since.

In 1986, Cedarbaum and Sessions were both nominated to the federal bench by President Ronald Reagan, and were members of the same orientation class for future judges. Their paths then diverged, however. Cedarbaum was confirmed, but Sessions nomination floundered over a controversy surrounding comments he made involving the Ku Klux Klan and the NAACP.